In The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self, Michael Sandel attempts to examine how political philosophy is contained in the practices and institutions of contemporary America. Sandel begins with the liberal vision of the right and the good, which gives “ride of place to justice, fairness, and individual rights” (p. 13, ¶1). Sandel explains that the liberal vision’s main thesis is “a just society seeks not to promote any particular ends, but enables its citizens to pursue their own ends, consistent with a similar liberty for all” (p. 13, ¶1), in such a way that the principles do not assume specific notion of the good. Sandel sums his assertion that John Rawls’ right is prior to the good in two senses: first, is individual rights cannot be sacrificed for good. Second, the rights specified by the principles of justice “cannot be premised on any particular vision of the good life” (p. 13, ¶3).
Sandel attributes this liberalism and political philosophy to Rawls based on Kantian foundations. Sandel begins critiquing Rawls with three concerns. First is the powerful appeal that philosophical liberal neutralism has. Second is that ultimately the right over the good will fail. Lastly, despite the failure, this is how we still live (p. 14, ¶1). The priority of the right is not emphasized by liberal ethics, with no assumption on any specific “conviction of the good” through the principles of justice. Sandel points out this is what Rawls meant when he wrote “justice is the first virtue of social institutions” (p. 15, ¶1), nevertheless, justice is more than the first virtue or a value.
Theories of justices have based the foundations on the purposes and ends of humans. Sandel credits J.S. Mill when Mill stated “justice the chief part, and incomparably the most binding part of all morality” (p. 15, ¶ 2), which brought utilitarianism to its end. The Kantian solution rejects this notion of ethics because human foundations have been through one or another conception of purposes and ends. Sandel dismisses this Kantian notion due to the fact that denying any freedom that allows an individual to choose their own conception defeats the purpose of being able to self-govern (p. 15, ¶3).
Sandel quotes Rawls when Rawls applies Germanic obscurities to Kant’s...